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The last year has seen major changes in the way we conduct business, both within our organizations and among our customer base. Many of these changes are not novel developments but represent a need to adapt to new technology and systems quicker than we had envisaged.

Video conferencing was an existing tool that was utilized more when we had to ‘meet’ with people who were considerable distances away. But with continuing restrictions on movement and an increasingly remote working model for many, it has become a fundamental part of our daily routines for team and/or client meetings.

For those who hadn’t used video conferencing to any real extent before, it can still feel daunting sometimes. Video conferencing is worth getting to grips with nonetheless, as it’s not only a major communications tool but something that can help drive conversion rate optimization.

We look at some of the best practices for small businesses utilizing video conferencing as a tool.

1. Tech preparation

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If you have an important video meeting planned, preparation is key. This is not only about the material that will be used in the meeting but the technology you will be using too. It’s always worth checking everything works by testing it before the scheduled video conference.

Following a checklist when preparing for a video conference, particularly an important one, will ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible. With this in mind:

  • Check any cameras and microphones being used work correctly. For a call with multiple participants, ask all of them to check their equipment too.
  • Ensure there is adequate lighting and all participants’ faces will be seen. This can include making sure there is no direct sunlight and using blinds or curtains if they’re available.
  • Check you have a good signal and that there is little chance of downtime. It can be frustrating if a signal is intermittent and affects the quality of the video call.
  • Make a quick test call to a friend or colleague. This could be shortly before the meeting or the day before. Knowing you have good connectivity is an important factor.
  • Choose the right software. There might not be a need for an expensive video conferencing software package, particularly if you are a small business on a tighter budget. For example, look at whether a free Slack alternative would be suitable for your needs.
  • Other tech may be helpful too. Many small businesses now use VoIP (voice over internet protocol) technology. Again, look at what options suit your budget. Many of these are better than Broadvoice.
  • Ensure you know how to make sure that video conferences are secure and that you adhere to relevant data protection regulations.

2. Etiquette

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It may well be the case that you’ve been working remotely for some time. You might be used to carrying out your daily tasks dressed casually; you may even stay in your pajamas all day. But when it comes to any sort of video meeting – team or client – you should dress better. While full business attire may not be required, at least choose smart-casual.

The thing to remember is you should behave in a certain way whether your video meeting is work-based or you’re participating from home or a different location. While a degree of informality may be allowed within a team meeting, if clients are involved in the call, a certain level of decorum should be maintained at all times.

Here are a few pointers to bear in mind:

  • At the least, wear smart casual attire if participating remotely. If office-based, you should be in your standard business attire.
  • Have a conversation before getting down to business. If any participants do not know each other, have them introduce themselves and state their roles.
  • Avoid distractions. This is a particular hazard for remote participants. For them, ensure anything that could cause a distraction (pets, children, etc.) are out of the way. In an office-based scenario, make sure other staff know not to disturb you or enter the meeting room while it’s ongoing.
  • Remain friendly throughout. This is a business call and even if you disagree with someone, the point should be debated without raised voices or rudeness.
  • When you are addressing one of the participants, maintain eye contact with that person. If you’re addressing the group, share that eye contact with all of them.
  • While participants in meetings will be seated, you may be standing if making a presentation. In either scenario, ensure your body language is open or neutral at all times.
  • Treat a video meeting the same as an in-person meeting. Be punctual whether you are leading the meeting or one of the participants.

3. Location

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Choosing a good location for the meeting is essential. If at your business location, choose a well-lit room and one that can accommodate all participants. Holding a meeting in an open office space means there will likely be noise and distraction from non-participants so find a space, if possible, that’s private and won’t have people walking through.

If you’re participating from a remote location, find a quiet space that will have few if any distractions. Your space at home may be limited and other people will appreciate this. Find as neutral a space as you can and one with no clutter in the background. If this is difficult, most video conferencing software offers a range of neutral or businesslike backgrounds.

Another thing to note if working from home is that there may well be other people in the house. If space is limited, ask them to keep noise to a minimum during your call, turn off radios and TVs, mute mobile phones, etc. Remote working offers many challenges but creating a temporary quiet space should not present too much difficulty.

4. Material preparation

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Your video conference may only involve a discussion, but there is a fairly high chance that there will be materials and information presented. Although one of the great advantages of video conferencing software is that sharing these is fairly easy, it also helps if any relevant material is distributed beforehand as you would with a real-life meeting.

While live screen sharing is a great way for the whole group to see information, sending prepared material in advance offers many advantages. For example, if you have a planned video call with a potential client, sending pertinent information a few days prior allows them to formulate any questions and hopefully make a positive and informed decision during the call.

Don’t be afraid to be adventurous when it comes to your material. While you may not be Steven Spielberg, the many easy-to-use video editing programs available mean you can add some real ‘wow’ to your presentation.

5. Timing

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In most ways, you should treat a video conference just as you would an in-person meeting. One of the main things to consider is timing. Set a start time that all participants should adhere to and an agenda to follow as you would in real life. While we all know meetings can go on longer than planned, setting an approximate end time can be useful too.

If staff are working remotely, they may be following different schedules from when they were office-based. Be sure to arrange the video conference in advance and consider potential schedule conflicts. Arranging the meeting as far ahead of time as possible allows for tweaking if needed.

Even with flexibility, it may be the case that some people aren’t able to attend. This is where video conferencing software offers another great advantage. You can record the entire meeting so non-attendees can catch up later. This means you have a resource you can view again to revisit points or evaluate the meeting as a whole.

The takeaway

Small businesses are facing many challenges just now, from adapting to remote working to choosing what technology meets their needs. For example, you may want to use an Android equivalent of Facetime.

Video conferencing software is one of the great tools of our time, and we’re increasingly seeing it used not only in business but as a virtual learning tool as well. Certainly, we are using more and more software and technology to do business.

Marketing and sales software help us generate leads and convert them into sales. Video conferencing can be another part of our increasing arsenal, allowing us to communicate both with our staff, clients, and potential clients too.